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  • My name is Graham Virgo, I’m Professor of English Private Law in the Faculty of Law

  • at the University of Cambridge, and I’m going to consider the question why you should

  • study law if you don’t want to become a lawyer.

  • A lot of people who study Law at University do so because they want to become practising

  • lawyers, whether barristers or solicitors. But it is not necessary to read Law at University

  • to become a practising lawyer. Equally, studying Law at University is a legitimate subject

  • for academic study even if you definitely do not want to become a lawyer or think that

  • you may not become a practising lawyer. That is because the study of Law at University

  • is not a vocational subject; it is an academic subject and an intellectual discipline. Even

  • those students who study Law at University intending to become practising lawyers are

  • required to do additional vocational training to prepare them for working either as a barrister

  • or a solicitor; for them the study of Law at University by itself is not sufficient

  • to train them to become lawyers. So why do such students study law at University and

  • why do others study Law even if they don’t want to become a lawyer? The answer is fairly

  • similar in both cases, namely that studying Law at University trains the student to think

  • and write logically and clearly; enables the student to engage in the critical analysis

  • of the law; enables the student to engage in a wide variety of different academic disciplines;

  • and finally, it is interesting and intellectually stimulating.

  • Students who study law at Cambridge end up doing a wide variety of jobs, other than being

  • a practising lawyer or a teacher or researcher of law. The study of Law enables students

  • to acquire and develop skills and knowledge which will be of relevance to business, politics,

  • the civil service, charitable organisations, international non-governmental organisations,

  • banking, finance, journalism and much, much more.

  • So what are the advantages of studying Law at University generally and studying Law at

  • Cambridge specifically? First, breadth and depth of knowledge.

  • At Cambridge most Law students study 14 papers over three years. Seven of these are the foundation

  • papers which must be taken if a student wishes to practice law, but, even if not, they are

  • papers in subjects which are so fundamental to English law, such as crime, contract and

  • constitutional law, that they ought to be studied to get a good idea of what the law

  • is about. All students at Cambridge also study Roman

  • Law in the first year which is an excellent introduction to legal principles and legal

  • thinking. Law students then have a choice of 6 other

  • subjects from a very wide list of subjects. This enables them to specialise or to study

  • subjects which may relate to other academic disciplines, such as history, philosophy,

  • sociology, psychology, government and politics, international relations and economics.

  • Students with an expertise and interest in modern languages can also apply to go to one

  • of four European countries between the second and third year of their legal students and

  • study law in that foreign country, either in France, Germany, Spain or Holland.

  • Secondly, learning to think like a lawyer. Law is an academic discipline which enables

  • students to think like lawyers. This means that they need to develop skills in thinking

  • logically; in identifying issues in practical problems; in assessing evidence and in reaching

  • judgments. These are all skills which are of significance to a wide variety of different

  • jobs and professions. The advantage of the small group teaching system at Cambridge means

  • that students get a great deal of support from their teachers in being able to think

  • and analyse the law. You also get a great deal of support in developing legal writing

  • skills, which emphasises clarity of expression, conciseness and precision in the use of language;

  • again, skills which are of real benefit to many careers.

  • Thirdly, encouraging critical engagement. One of the real benefits of studying Law at

  • university is that the law is not taken at face value as something which is unchanging,

  • but rather is something which can moulded and developed. This may be through careful

  • interpretation of the rules or through careful assessment of old precedents to see how they

  • can be applied to new problems. But Law students also engage in discussions and thinking about

  • more radical reform of the law. Law students are encouraged to reflect on the law, to think

  • critically about the law, to consider whether the law is satisfactory, to identify the policies

  • which underpin particular rules and to suggest alternatives. Law is consequently a very important

  • and useful subject for students to study if they are interested in questions of justice,

  • rights, social policy and law reform. Fourthly, intellectual engagement.

  • Finally, students who study Law at University engage in an academic discipline with a very

  • long pedigree. They discuss the work of ancient philosophers and modern theorists; they examine

  • the meaning of justice; they consider the operation of financial markets, corporations

  • and commerce; they engage with the operation of law in a European and in a global arena;

  • they analyse social policy and change. Aristotle said that theLaw is reason free

  • from passion.’ He was half right. The law is reason, but it is full of passion.

  • If you want to find out more about studying law at the University of Cambridge, you can

  • find a lot more information on the Law Faculty website.

My name is Graham Virgo, I’m Professor of English Private Law in the Faculty of Law

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Why study Law at University if I don't want to become a lawyer?

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    fisher posted on 2013/04/09
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